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Thread: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one?

  1. #1
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    What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one?

    I've been swimming my entire life yet the fastest my 50m freestyle ever got was 28.7 seconds while using a tech suit. Yet I see many Olympians and others that have almost the same muscle mass and proportions and they swim consistent 23's.
    How is this so?

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Ah where to begin on this one... the same reason why not every struggling & starving artist has their work in the metropolitan museum of art.

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    So many possibilities. Percentage of fast twitch fibers, specificity of training, better technique, X factor?
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    And yet you are faster than a lot of others who might ask the same question of you.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    And yet you are faster than a lot of others who might ask the same question of you.
    This is true. When I was at my peak as a teenager I probably could go undet 29 seconds a couple of times in 50 yard freestyle not meters. I mainly swim around 29 to 31 seconds. I'm not a freestyler. Today, I would be lucky to hit 41 seconds. Not all of us are great at swimming. Some of us do it for exercise as well. Not everyone is going to do a Laurie Val time of 1:04 that would get you a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympics for women in 100 meter freestyle.

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    And yet you are faster than a lot of others who might ask the same question of you.
    I'm with Orca on this topic. Everyone who makes the attempt is a great swimmer in my book. I work out solo most the time, coach a local Community Center age group swim club, and teach lessons to folks of all ages. It's fun to watch a swimmer learn something new, or overcome what they felt was out of reach.


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    Participating Member Zwemmer's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    I'm with Orca on this topic. Everyone who makes the attempt is a great swimmer in my book. I work out solo most the time, coach a local Community Center age group swim club, and teach lessons to folks of all ages. It's fun to watch a swimmer learn something new, or overcome what they felt was out of reach.
    This! Whether a swimmer has a five-rings tattoo & has been swimming since about birth or someone who is 90 and just came for their first swim lesson --and everyone in between-- it's all about the individual and their own relation to the water.

    These days I find it incredibly beautiful to watch and Olympic swimmer set a world record, to see them on the medal stand, and to also know that record may fall the next day. It's all so ephemeral. And yet no matter a persons level relative to anyone else it can be a huge amount of fun and satisfaction.

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    I've thought about this many times to find, the ONLY thing that sets apart a great swimmer from the average is the their resulting times.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    How many Olympic swimmers do you see in local meets? Yes, there are some but, we not so fast swimmers stay in the pool for decades at our pace and race in each event we enter.

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    Very Active Member JPEnge's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    I mean, there's a laundry list of things. A great swimmer doesn't have to have all of these but each certainly helps.

    Tall, long arms, long torso compared to legs, wide shoulders, ectomorph-to-mesomorph build, big hands and feet, big lung capacity, flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders, strong core, high lactate threshold, high proportion of fast-twitch muscle.

    And those are just some physical attributes, not even started on mental makeup.
    400 IMer/200 backstroker in another life, now sprinter/breaststroker... Yeah, I don't know how that happened either!

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    Participating Member Zwemmer's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by JPEnge View Post
    I mean, there's a laundry list of things. A great swimmer doesn't have to have all of these but each certainly helps....
    I like this group of physical attributes. Letís compare two Olympians, first the most awarded, Michael Phelps:


    Tall - Yes
    long arms - Famously yes
    long torso compared to legs - Yes
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - Yes
    big lung capacity - Yes
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes


    And now Cody Miller:


    Tall - No
    long arms - No
    long torso compared to legs- No
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - No
    big lung capacity - No
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    I was always told the 4 "T's" will determine you ultimate levels of achievement;

    Talent - Technique - Training - Tools ...these are listed in order of importance and you only have the ability to work on the last 3. Unfortunately what our parents told us when we were kids was not true (ie. you can be or do anything you want if you try hard enough). However, as a master, I personally find satisfaction in my own improvements.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Its not about talent and training only its also about the will to improve and the right mindset.
    I guess the great one has a bigger will to win compare to an average. The average one is not improving (much). He stay always in his comfort-zone.

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    Very Active Member Swimspire's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Lots of good answers here but we shouldn't forget the importance of a great coach! Whether that coach was someone who worked with the swimmer from a younger age or later in life, the impact of a great coach can be felt lifelong. Also important is having a strong support group (family, spouse, friends) to allow that swimmer to make the sacrifices it takes to be truly great.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    And yet you are faster than a lot of others who might ask the same question of you.

    Oh, so true. "There are always greater and lessor humans."

    And also what are you calling great? I live in Pennsylvania. As far as I'm concerned, someone who swims in a lake at least once in every month of the year is a truly great swimmer. Faster, for example, doesn't make that any better.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by Zwemmer View Post
    I like this group of physical attributes. Letís compare two Olympians, first the most awarded, Michael Phelps:


    Tall - Yes
    long arms - Famously yes
    long torso compared to legs - Yes
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - Yes
    big lung capacity - Yes
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes


    And now Cody Miller:


    Tall - No
    long arms - No
    long torso compared to legs- No
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - No
    big lung capacity - No
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes
    Corey Miller is a breaststroker and Breaststroker can be shorter. As for legs,
    My legs are so short that I have to go to petit. I'm also average height though and Breaststroke my best stroke.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by Zwemmer View Post
    I like this group of physical attributes. Letís compare two Olympians, first the most awarded, Michael Phelps:


    Tall - Yes
    long arms - Famously yes
    long torso compared to legs - Yes
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - Yes
    big lung capacity - Yes
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes


    And now Cody Miller:


    Tall - No
    long arms - No
    long torso compared to legs- No
    wide shoulders - Yes
    ectomorph-to-mesomorph build - Yes
    big hands and feet - No
    big lung capacity - No
    flexible ankles, knees, and shoulders - Yes
    strong core - Yes
    high lactate threshold - Presumably
    high proportion of fast-twitch muscle - Yes
    Cody Miller is a breaststroke. We have different dimensions than other simmers.

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    I'm curious, why is a long torso comparable to legs preferable?

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    Very Active Member JPEnge's Avatar
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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    Quote Originally Posted by floatything View Post
    I'm curious, why is a long torso comparable to legs preferable?
    Well, I'm not entirely sure if the ratio itself is important on its own, but you want to be tall, and it also helps to have short legs because you can maintain a higher frequency of kick with a lower amplitude that stays within your slipstream easier. So that ends up with preferably a long torso to make up the height difference.

    Famously, Michael Phelps, who is 6'4", has the torso of an average 6'8" person and legs of an average 5'10" person.

    My checkoffs in the physical advantages column are pretty few - I'm 6'1" but with a 6'7" wingspan, and I have ridiculously flexible ankles. But I have really long legs and size 10 feet which is tiny for someone over 6'...

    BTW, cinc, I would say that Cody Miller probably does have some good lung capacity. You kind of have to to be effective at breaststroke pullouts with the dolphin kick these days. Also from pictures he does seem to have long arms, at least relative to his height.
    400 IMer/200 backstroker in another life, now sprinter/breaststroker... Yeah, I don't know how that happened either!

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    Re: What sets apart a average swimmer from a truly great one

    [QUOTE=JPEnge;328766]Well, I'm not entirely sure if the ratio itself is important on its own, but you want to be tall, and it also helps to have short legs because you can maintain a higher frequency of kick with a lower amplitude that stays within your slipstream easier. So that ends up with preferably a long torso to make up the height difference.

    Famously, Michael Phelps, who is 6'4", has the torso of an average 6'8" person and legs of an average 5'10" person.

    My checkoffs in the physical advantages column are pretty few - I'm 6'1" but with a 6'7" wingspan, and I have ridiculously flexible ankles. But I have really long legs and size 10 feet which is tiny for someone over 6'...

    BTW, cinc, I would say that Cody Miller probably does have some good lung capacity. You kind of have to to be effective at breaststroke pullouts with the dolphin kick these days. Also from pictures he does seem to have long arms, at least relative to his height.[/QUOTE
    There are articles about why Michael long toso and short legs helped him. He is suppose to have less drag compared to your average swimmer.

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